Among President Sarkozy’s recent moves to trim the size of the French government was the layoff of half of the 165 physiotherapists at the taxpayer-funded National Baths of Aix-les-Bains. The pink-slipped masseurs warn that the country’s health will be at risk if people are unable to get the mud wraps, thermal baths and deep-tissue massages covered by national health insurance (along with subsidized transportation and lodging for the visits). In fact, 27 of the physiotherapists immediately went on sick leave for depression. Among Sarkozy’s other targets of government bloat, according to a July Wall Street Journal dispatch: figuring out why France employs 271 diplomats in India but more than 700 in Senegal.

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS
    Edward Defreitas, 36, was arrested in Toms River, N.J., in June and accused of causing a three-vehicle collision that injured two men in a car and sent two others (paramedics riding in an ambulance) to the hospital. Defreitas told police that he had been drinking and had decided to drive around until he sobered up: “He (said he) was afraid to go home and his mother finding alcohol on his breath.”

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS
    School custodian Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, was awarded the equivalent of about $75,000 in June in London’s High Court after suing Britain’s Hampshire County government when he hurt himself falling off a 6-foot stepladder. Gower-Smith claimed that he had not been properly “trained” on how to use it, despite his long-time experience with such ladders, and despite his signed acknowledgment that he had indeed received training, and despite his having blamed himself just after he fell. (He disavowed the self-blame by saying that, at the time, he was woozy and didn’t remember what he said.)
 
COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS
    People would hardly expect a brawl at the Guilford (Maine) Historical Society, but in May, member Al Hunt, who was irate that rare photographs of the town had been loaned to a local restaurant, might have bumped against the society’s secretary, Zarvin Shaffer. According to witnesses, Shaffer then punched Hunt in the face, Hunt’s wife grabbed a chair, and Shaffer’s son yanked Mrs. Hunt away by her hair.
    In April, the Sycamore (Ill.) City Council voted to quadruple the fine for overstaying a parking meter (from 25 cents to $1). The city’s 360 meters themselves will remain at a penny for 12 minutes, a nickel for an hour and a dime for two hours.
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